At the end of August 1997, Tom Peters introduced the idea of building your personal brand in Fast Company magazine. He pointed out that every company had a brand, and that it influenced the way consumers saw those firms. Peters argued that every person had a brand, too. Every employee or entrepreneur has something that sets him or her apart from the competition.
Peters’ advice is as relevant today as it was before the turn of the millennium, although he wrote before the dawn of social networking and mobile devices. Read on for an updated version and tips on building your personal brand to gain more clients or to land the job of your dreams.
What Do You Stand For?
Think about the most popular brands on the market today. They all have a set of core values that guide everything that they do. You purchase products or services from one brand or another based on those values.
When it comes to personal branding, one of the first things you need to do is to determine what your values are. What is it you believe is most important in life – having a good job? Having a good time? Spending time with family and friends?
Your clients or potential bosses want someone who demonstrates certain values, because those traits align with their corporate vision. When you understand what your values are, you can begin to search for the opportunities that are a good fit with what you hold dear.
What Does Your Personal Brand Look Like Now?
Once you’ve done a values audit, it’s time to examine what people see when they either search for you online or they meet you in person.
If you’re curious as to what people discover when they find you online, do a Google search of your name. What comes up? Is it your LinkedIn profile, or are you going to find a picture from that spring break vacation you took to Cancun – you know, the one you can barely remember because you had such a good time?
You might not like what you see, but the good news is you can try to fix it. For less-than-professional-looking Facebook pictures, untag yourself and change your security settings so that your profile doesn’t appear in Google search results. Let’s say the picture or information is on a website. Ask the webmaster to take it down. You can also request Google remove undesirable search results, though there’s no guarantee that will work.
The best strategy is to bury the content. In order to prevent embarrassing content from coming up in searches, create your own, professional-looking content on sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, or YouTube. Creating your own website (with your own name attached) is another good way to achieve this goal.
A stellar online reputation means nothing if you show up to events or job interviews looking like a slob. Dress professionally for these occasions! Whatever you’re wearing shouldn’t have holes in it. It shouldn’t be too big or too small (this rule includes shoes, too). Stained clothes are another no-no. Check that your underclothes aren’t showing. You don’t have to wear a suit all the time – just make sure you’re neat and polished.
Show You’ve Got Something to Say that Matters
A significant part of building your brand is demonstrating that you’re an authority (or at least a source of knowledge) about something. The next question is, what subject do you know a great deal about?
Think about your passions. Pick the one topic that you know lots about, and start writing about it. Make sure that whatever you write is of high quality, and that it’s new and different than what other people are writing. Remember that it takes time to generate authority. Be patient.
Keep Working at It
Building your personal brand isn’t a one-time thing. It’s a constant process, and you can’t rest on your laurels. You have to constantly work at it – that involves reading the new thought leadership in your industry, attending industry events, and meeting luminaries in the field.
A crucial part of building your personal brand is to keep learning. When you stop learning, you have nothing new to say, and nothing kills your brand faster than that.